Guest Blogger, Theresa Barnhart: Aunt Ruth, A Beautiful Lady

Update-your-salonMy Mom called me this afternoon and told me she had been writing about my Great Aunt Ruth and her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She wondered if I might post what she wrote as a guest blog. Of course, I said yes. Although she does not write about it here, my Mom also worked at a nursing home for several years and she has always had a tender heart for those suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia. As she says, September 21st is World Alzheimer’s Day and I think we all know loved ones who are affected by it everyday. I’ve included a link to ALZinfo.org right here if you would like more information about the disease or what you could do to raise awareness or help others in need. My Mom’s words brought back many sweet memories when I read them tonight and she’s right, our Aunt Ruth was a beautiful lady.

Aunt Ruth, A Beautiful Lady!

This has been one of those weeks when I have been thinking of my Aunt Ruth and how this beautiful vivacious lady was robbed the last few years of her life by this disease known as Alzheimer’s. Early in the week, I started to receive a newsletter from the Kansas Association of Alzheimer’s. Mid week, I found Aunt Ruth’s memory card I received at her funeral. Then today, I saw on Facebook an article about Sunday, September 21,2014, being World Alzheimer’s Day. I thought maybe this came for a reason. Everyone forgets occasionally how to spell a word (I’m famous for that all the time) or forgets where the keys are, etc. I believe we all have memory loss now and then, but it’s more noticeable as we age. It doesn’t mean we are getting Alzheimer’s, but it is something to be aware of. Aunt Ruth was always a happy outgoing lady and I wondered, “How can this happen to a lady who has always put others before herself?” She was a beautican. Her salon was in her home. There she could take care of her family. When she started to cut back her work, she would still take those ladies who were more like old friends instead of clients. She even started picking up her clients who didn’t have a way to the shop and do their hair and then take them back to their home. Those ladies for various reasons could no longer drive. Now that’s service! That’s just how she was. She loved all those who entered her home and those who entered her shop. Everytime we would stop by to say hello she would greet us and always introduce us to whoever was there. So lovely and outgoing, you couldn’t help but feel the love she had for us as if we were the most important people in her life. The first time I came to Kansas with Ray to meet his parents and siblings he said he wanted to take me to Dewey to meet his uncle and aunt. It was well into the evening and Uncle Ken had a early morning flight so they went to bed earlier. I was sorry we got them out of bed but when they greeted me it was the nicest, sweetest moment as Aunt Ruth gave me hugs and let me know they were glad to meet me and, of course, see Ray. (He couldn’t do anything wrong by them.) It was love at first meeting. We were married two weeks later and came to Oklahoma and Ray got a job at Phillips 66 in Bartlesville. We moved to Bartleville. Uncle Ken and Aunt Ruth were just a few miles away so I was able to go see Aunt Ruth at the shop and spent part of the day with her. About once a week her mom would come in and visit and have her hair done. She was also a very sweet lady and I enjoyed visiting with her, too. You might say Aunt Ruth was her mother’s daughter. Aunt Ruth’s daughter too is like her mother. Phillips moved us to Kansas City then turned around and sent him back to Bartlesville for some training and he was there and I was in Overland Park with a baby about eight weeks old. We would go down to Dewey several times and Aunt Ruth opened her home and took me and Ray Jr. in. One time while we were there, Ray Jr. started crying and I couldn’t get him to stop. We checked him over making sure his diaper pins hadn’t opened. They didn’t use the tape on throw away diapers at that time. Anyway Uncle Ken took him in his arms and rocked him to sleep. I have so many beautiful memories of her. Even when she got to where she didn’t know us we could feel her love and we hoped, in her mind, she could feel our love. Even though she couldn’t remember us we could still remember her and love and cherish those momeries we made with her. As long as there is life, someone will remember and never forget. Pray one day there will be a cure for this devastating disease. It can take away a person’s mind, but there is always going to be someone who will remember. God blessed us with this beautiful lady. Before she passed, I whispered in her ear that I loved her and that I would see her again. I told Ray I thought she heard me. I will remember for you ’til someone remembers for me.

The Pink Tea Cup

052809PinkTeaCup17MS.jpgWhen I lived in New York, on my days off from work, I would sometimes go to the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village, check out a few books, then wander somewhere around there for lunch. One of my favorite places to have lunch alone, just me and a book, was a soul food restaurant, a neighborhood staple, called The Pink Tea Cup. I ordered the same thing every time, a burger special that came with fresh cut fries, a slice of sweet potato pie, and a cup of coffee. I was usually one of only a few customers during the hour or so I’d sit and read my book and eat my meal. It was a cozy joint and I especially liked going in the winter. I remember one year that I did not think I would be able to fly home for Christmas, whether it was because of money or getting shifts covered or both, but at some point, the heavens parted and I was able to get a plane ticket and make arrangements. I celebrated by taking myself to a late lunch at The Pink Tea Cup. I could not help but be conscious of the color of my skin while I dined there, but there was something Southern and familiar and comfortable about the place. I sat and ate the home cooked meal and looked forward to the home cooked meals my Mother would have waiting for me when I made it to Kansas for the holidays.

I just finished reading Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin. There was a section of the book where the protagonist, a successful African American actor named Leo Proudhammer, recalls working as a waiter in a Greenwich Village restaurant called The Island that sounded, if only to me, a bit like The Pink Tea Cup. Leo remembers serving Hopping John and chicken and ribs and I closed my eyes and saw all the action taking place at my old haunt, a place that still looked like 1968 even in 1993.

I am mostly drawn to James Baldwin for three reasons. He wrote often about New York, a city I love. He wrote about the Church, it’s complicated burdens and emancipations. And probably mostly, because he wrote about homosexuals, because he was one himself. I identify with James Baldwin.

This identification resonated even more in Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone because he wrote about acting, specifically his character’s technique and process and it gave me an idea what it must have been like to be an actor in the ’50s and ’60s New York, a time and place that produced some pretty exciting actors, not to mention writers.

There is a point in the novel where Leo’s estranged brother, a man who was falsely imprisoned in his youth but has become a minister, comes to visit him at The Island. He stays until the restaurant closes and the two brothers sit to share a meal, Leo drinking a tumbler of Chianti, Caleb, the elder, drinking coffee. Their conversation is tense in moments and tender in others. At one point, Caleb asks Leo, “What does an artist really do?” I’m editing for space. More than anything I just want you to pick up the book and read it yourself, but Leo tells Caleb that an artist creates things-paintings, books, poems, plays, music. Caleb then wants to know exactly what these arts do. Leo tells him, “They make you-feel more alive.” And then Leo thinks to himself that he doesn’t trust that answer. They talk more, Leo then says, “I think it-art-can make you less lonely.” But he doesn’t trust that answer either. And then finally he tells his brother, “Sometimes you read something- or you listen to music- I don’t know- and you find this man, who may have been a very unhappy man- and- a man you’ve never seen- well, he tells you something about your life. And it doesn’t seem as awful as it did before.”

Everytime I write about Baldwin, I feel a little foolish. What could a very white boy from Kansas have to offer when talking about one of the greatest African American writers in history? His experience was not my experience. It’s kind of ludicrous for me to say, “Oh I LOVE James Baldwin because he wrote about New York!” It sounds like I’m talking about Cindy Adams. But there is something about the way he wrote about New York and Evangelicalism and sexuality that drew me into his world, that captivated me. And once he had me, has me, for James Baldwin’s work is ongoing, by seeing how much we are alike, he also reminds me of how different we are. I learn from his experience; it’s my hope that reading about his specific African American experience makes me a more sympathetic, empathetic, knowledgeable person. I think there is, in his writing, an attempt to shame me for the wrongs my ancestors did, just as I think he tries to hurt his father, even though he loves him, for being cruel and abusive and embittered and drunk when Baldwin was a boy. Baldwin offers a knife in the side and then a blanket for comfort.

It’s no surprise, really, that I feel a pang of regret for saying that something in Baldwin’s writing intends to punish or wound me. While I am gay and have always felt like an outsider, the color of my skin, reminds me, how much of an outsider could I possibly be? I’m much more Barbara, the secondary character of Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, a white aspiring actress who fled Kentucky in hopes of making her way in New York City, who forges a life long intimate relationship with Leo Proudhammer. Leo’s love for her is visible and tenable, but in the 20 years of their friendship the novel spans, there are the knife and the blanket and neither are ever very far from each other.

I really don’t know where I am going with all of this. Baldwin raises more questions than he answers for me. But God, I love him. I love the way his stories burrow into me and I laugh and I weep and I think to myself, “This is MY STORY. He is telling my story.” And the ridiculousness of that statement doesn’t even occur to me until I am pages ahead.

Teenage Dream

brady2A friend of mine shared a video on Facebook of two little boys lip-syncing to a Katy Perry song. He captioned the video, “Honey, the gay babies.” I clicked to watch it and it appeared to be two little boys, perhaps in the Philippines, one in a dress and one in a bikini top and a towel wrapped around his hips like a long skirt. I’ve posted the video, you can see it here for yourself.

I watched it and I must admit, I had a complex reaction. Don’t get me wrong, I am rooting for these little boys. I want them to grow up to be fabulous and I believe that they will, but there was something, I’m not exactly sure what, that unsettled me.

The biggest night of my life, when I was 8, was going to be the little talent show, my cousin Susie and I were to put on in my living room for New Year’s Eve. I had a tape recording of The Brady Kids singing both It’s a Sunshine Day and Keep On. Susie and I had worked for days learning the songs, the choreography. On the afternoon before the show, Susie accidently taped over about 10 seconds of one of the songs. When I realized it, I became inconsolable. I really thought there were going to be talent scouts in our home in rural Kansas for the 8:45 New Year’s Eve show. Every one tried to calm me, it’s okay, it’s just a few seconds. But even then, I was easily crestfallen. Still the show did go on. After we returned from bacon-wrapped filet mignon dinners at the Whistle Stop restaurant, Independence’s fanciest steak house, Susie and I changed into our costumes and sang and danced our two songs. By then, something had been lost. There was polite applause from my parents and relatives, but I couldn’t hear it, I was still bereft. My odds of being in The New Mickey Mouse Club with Lisa Whelchel and Kelly Parsons were slim to none.

I couldn’t help but think of that little 8 year old me. (Susie, if you’re reading this, I apologize for being the world’s most annoying, high maintenace 8 year old. It’s a wonder you still talk to me, I love you!) But these little boys reminded me of this fire I had, really I always had. I always wanted to be on a stage, prancing about. And because the performers I loved most were women, they were the ones I emulated. I really did want to grow up to be Carol Burnett. Or Jan Brady.

As I watched, I told myself that it was chiefly the sexual element of their dance moves that bothered me most. I don’t want kids to think about sex, I want everyone to stay as innocent as possible. I’m like Mary Jo on Designing Women who, on one memorable episode, said, “Don’t have sex,” under her breath every time she talked to her teenage daughter.

But as I watched these boys, I wondered if I was disturbed also by how feminine they were. I know that when I was that age, I received a lot of messages from a number of different sources, to butch it up. Act like a boy, don’t play with dolls. Don’t put a towel on your head and pretend it’s your long blond hair. My first grade teacher, Miss Bartlesmeyer, punished me for talking to the girls too much by making me go a week of only talking to boys. I got caught at one point whispering to my friend Sheila and received an added week of punishment. (Miss Bartlesmeyer, if YOU’RE reading this, I don’t think you had the best approach to teaching.)

So I have posted this video here, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts. You might have your own reactions when you watch the video. If I am a little uncomfortable about watching this, does it mean I have my own unresolved internalized homophobia?

I do want to say, I think these little boys are amazing. They are talented and confident and inspired and fabulous and I hope the world is always kind to them and tells them they can accomplish anything, because they can.

Paying For It

joan-rivers-dead-31It’s not what you think. Well, it’s a little bit what you think. For months now, I have been captivated by the “boost” feature on my Easily Crestfallen Facebook page. My page is nothing to brag about, just a little bit over 100 followers. Sometimes I go weeks without posting on it or I’ll post an old picture of Joan Rivers or Meryl Streep and Facebook will tell me, “6 people saw your post.” wow.

But every time I am on my Easily Crestfallen Facebook page, below everything I’ve shared, there is a little button that says, “Boost Post.” And you click it and it tells you how much more exposure you’ll get if you pay Facebook money and they share you with people who probably don’t even want to see your blog or whatever it is you’re promoting, anyway.

I’ve wrestled with this for a while. Do I want more followers, more exposure? Yes, of course. I also know how annoyed I get when another ad for Dollar Shave Club comes up.

But last night, I succumbed. I spent $5 promoting two of my most recent blogs, each. $10, total. It’s my understanding that this $10 will promote these two posts for 24 hours, it’s been about 11 hours at the time of this writing. And yes, I see a small uptick on my blog’s Facebook page as well as the blog’s actual statistics counter. “Sandra” is currently my 18th most popular post, and to think just 11 hours ago, it was merely my 24th most popular. Sadly, even with the boost investment of $5, that I could have spent on a frappuccino at Starbucks or a happy hour mai-tai from Damon’s, “I Cain’t Go Back to Buffalo, I Cain’t!” is only ranked 47th. That’s what high stake risk is all about, I suppose.

But this morning, I will be honest, I had a little buyer’s remorse, and yes, I did feel a little dirty. And I felt bad for “God’s Pen”, which had been enjoying it’s reign as 18th most popular blog post and found its way there on its own merit. No boosts for “God’s Pen”, thank you very much. And by the way, “God’s Pen” is one of my personal favorites.

Oh don’t worry, I won’t beat myself up too much about that lost $10. Although, if I had a time machine, that $10 might have been enough to buy me a house or trip to Paris or a fur coat, not that I wear fur. But in time machine-less 2014, $10 doesn’t go far. Which I’ve proven.

And no, there is no real reason why I made Joan Rivers the featured image of this particular post, except that she is still all I can think about and I really don’t think enough people saw the picture when I posted it on Facebook the first time!

Sandra

sc0036b468So, yes, I made my decision. I won’t be returning to Barneys. I feel like it’s the right thing. This morning, I was in a museum kind of mood, so I looked up Los Angeles museums. There are so many I haven’t been to, it’s actually a little embarrassing. One museum I have always wanted to visit was the Museum of Tolerance.

There was a regular customer at Barneys who was also a docent at the Museum of Tolerance. One time I heard her go on about how good she felt giving back in such a significant way, giving tours to school children. For the sake of this story, I’ll call her Sandra.

Like I said, Sandra was a regular. When I was waiter, she always tipped about 14%. She often complained about the tables she was given by the old manager. “I come here all the time, why does she act like she doesn’t know who I am!?!?” I would attempt commiseration. “I know, you DO come here all the time.” She actually was nice enough, I just did not understand how someone could be a regular at a tony restaurant in Beverly Hills and not know that you really are supposed to leave 20%, like always.

Anyway, years passed. I stopped waiting tables, started hosting. New management came and they were happy to always give Sandra a nice table, outside in the shade when it was desirable weather, inside when it was too cold or too hot, a large table even if she was just a party of two. She was grateful enough, but some days she would arrive and I’d take her to a table that had been assigned to her (by someone else) and she’d chastise me, “Oh, no, no, no, this won’t work, I can’t sit here.” And then I’d have to return to the host stand and we’d have to juggle things around to accommodate Sandra. That’s really how lunch there was and really, I get it, that’s restaurant life.

A few weeks ago, I had to go to Barneys to talk about the possibility of my return. As I pulled into the driveway, to park downstairs, there was a woman getting out of a luxury car at the valet. Of course, that woman was Sandra. I instantly felt sick to my stomach. She walked by my car on her way into the store. I looked down at my phone pretending to check my messages or Facebook. I thought, I can not look at this woman, I just can’t.

I’ve written about my Dad’s surgery many times before. It was a big deal for me and the fact he is alive and thriving never ceases to amaze me. He was in very bad shape for several weeks and then one day, after I had left the Midwest, he started to get better. His rehabilitation was still a long one, but in retrospect, it seems, like there was just a moment, where he turned a corner and went from being in really bad shape to being on the mend. At least that’s the way it feels in my memory.

The weekend that I left Kansas to return to Los Angeles, my Dad was transported by ambulance, to a rehab facility in Joplin that reminded me of some kind of hospital in a Stephen King novel. I drove my Mom to Independence with our luggage from nearly three weeks in Kansas City. We dropped everything off, went to the vet to pick up Ruby their dog who had been boarded for all that time. Then we drove to Joplin to see how my Dad was doing. What we found was worrisome, the facility had never dealt with anyone recovering from a surgery of my Dad’s nature. And my Dad was uncharacteristically grim himself. My father was and is known for his optimism. But on this day, weakened by the 3 hour transport, depressed by his new digs, he was not himself. And though he has never told me this, I think he was mad at me for leaving before he went home. Saying goodbye to him that afternoon, I did not know if I would ever see him alive again. I went in for a hug and he barely hugged back. As I waved goodbye from the door, he seemed more invested in the Law and Order rerun on tv. I remember walking down the hall, to my car, as my Mother said her goodbyes to him. A geyser of pain bubbled up within me on that walk past the rooms of other deteriorating and deteriorated patients. Once outside, I ran to my car and cried like I’d never cried before. And let’s be honest, I know my way around a cry. But this was like a family pet caught in a trap. I cried for my Dad, who might not make it, who may never forgive me for leaving while he was still in the hospital. I cried for my Mom, who didn’t even know how to fill her own gas tank, how could she be a widow? And of course, I cried for myself, that I wasn’t brave enough to stay, that I had failed my Dad again, just like Little League and leaving the ministry and being gay. I cried because I missed Eric and the dogs and my bed and my life in Los Angeles. I cried and cried and cried. And when my Mom finally got in the car, I tried to pull myself together for her, but I just couldn’t.

And then the next morning, I left my Mom and drove 13 hours on one day and 13 hours the next and finally made it home to Los Angeles around 10:00 pm. I cried a little more when I saw Eric and Millie and Ricky.

The next day, I went to work. I was pretty shaky, the events of the last three days, the last three weeks made me pretty vulnerable. And goodness knows, I’m at least “a little sensitive” on even my best days. It was nice to see my co-workers, many of whom had called me or sent messages while I was away. Some of the regulars had known about my Father’s surgery and expressed support.

Sandra came in that day, too. She greeted us at the host stand, I was told to take her to a certain table. We went outside, I started to take her to that table. “Oh, no, no, no. I only sit at Table 41 now. Didn’t ______ tell you?” “Uh, no, I’ve been out of town for three weeks. My Dad had major surgery.” Distracted, she asked, “Is he okay?” “Not really, no.” There was a moment. Neither one of us spoke, and I truly wondered if she might offer her comfort, that this might be the moment where we became, if not friends, then friendly. Finally, she coldly said, “I’m sorry. But, ask _______, I only sit at Table 41 now.”

And every time I saw Sandra after that day, and there were many, many, many Sandra sightings, I remembered the time she could have offered a little, well, tolerance to a man, a man she’d known for a decade, whose life was crumbling all around him, but chose not to.

So, yes, when I think about Barneys, I feel a joy that I will never have to see Sandra on a regular basis again. Will there be other Sandras in my life? Sadly, yes, there will be. Is Sandra a bad person? Who knows, she is like the rest of us, she does some good, she does some bad, that’s life.

This morning, as my blood started to boil when I thought about the Museum of Tolerance and then of Sandra, I wondered, what is it about that interaction that I hold on to so tightly? In writing this I think I have a little, just a little enlightenment. And it’s maybe not about Sandra, but more about me. (Isn’t always about me?) I can’t think of that day without the memories attached of how powerless and weak and sad and selfish I felt, my heart was split in two and I wondered if it would ever, ever by whole again. And maybe it’s just easier to heap all that pain and shame and uncertainty on a virtual stranger named Sandra.

A Meaning of Life

1798866_10152304887902755_1072442248_nMy friend Michael and I were talking about the meaning of life today. He is the Sonja to my woeful uncle Vanya. We conjectured that friends and faith and spouses and children are all the pools we draw from to drink of life.

I took an Ambien type pill about an hour ago. It calmed me a bit immediately. I’ve had a big day, you could read about it if you want, and I must be honest with you, it would mean much for me for you to read the the things I write. A man who calls his blog easily crestfallen is not cavalier about his feelings when he sees no one is reading his epistles, though admittedly, sometimes my words are overlooked for good reasons.

I’ve gotten off track. I took a pill that I sometimes, but seldom take, a pill that is supposed to help me sleep. I watched Below Deck on Bravo sans side effects and then I started to watch Big Brother. And then I started hallucinating prisms coming out of the tv. It was cool, but I took that as a sign for me to go to bed. I passed by, in the hall, a valued gift, A Phyllis Diller print called Reclusive Star. Again, I thought I saw prisms coming from the painting and the mirror facing it on the other wall. I felt like Jessica Lange in the new season of American Horror Story. I tried, most unsuccessfully to take selfies with Phyllis’ picture.

My clumsiness deterred my goal, I found myself smiling and giggling, fearlessly playing with my phone when the possibility of it dropping was extremely high. And I paused and thought. I am so happy. Drug induced, no please let me call it drug enhanced, like summer highlights or a beer chaser. But this feeling is unmistakeable and I’m sure most of you have experienced it, whether it’s enhanced by a prescription drug, an illegal drug, alcohol, extreme yoga, swimming, a great sex session. An otherworldly bliss is what I’m experiencing right now and I’m grateful for it because I had an introspective, confusing day where I was forced to make a big, burdening decision. And now I feel lighter, lighter than I felt all summer, all year.

And tomorrow I will rise and I might be proud of my wisdom, my honesty. I might be ashamed, too. I just realized the pages I read this morning are putting me to bed tonight. I’m currently reading James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone. There is a scene in a New Jersey pizza parlor with 4 men, two women. Three of the men are black, one man is Italian. Both women are actresses, one from Kentucky, the other from Texas. But they’ve met at this place and started drinking together. One of the black men compliments the actress from Kentucky, telling her she’s quite a lady.

“Oh!” said Barbara. “I just want to live!”

“Tell me,” said Matthew (the young sensitive soldier) quickly, “do you find it hard to live? I mean”~he was very earnest; Fowler watched him with a smile~”really to live? Not just”~he waved his big hands nervously~”not just to go to the job and come home and go to sleep and get up and eat and go back to the job~but~to live.” His hands reached out, his fingers clutched the table, flat, palms downward; and he looked, for a moment at his hands. Then he looked at Barbara. “You know?”

When I read this this morning, I understood this young man’s ache. I know that ache. I want to wave my arms, clutch the air, look at my tired hands and proclaim, “I want to live.”

And in a moment or two, I will tumble into my bed, my mind will wander fancifully, a conscious dream state before my soon descending unconscious one. And I’ll giggle like a drunken accountant living in the Russian countryside. “This is the meaning of life!”

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I Cain’t Go Back to Buffalo, I Cain’t!!

0bade804ca2af19257d999ea38a540bcMy all time favorite contestant on America’s Next Top Model was a young woman named Angelea Preston. The first time we saw her, she was one of about 30 finalists who had been flown to either New York or Los Angeles to go through the final round of eliminations before Tyra and the judges chose the girls who would move into the house for the actual competition. Angelea was a serious contender, beautiful bone structure, caramel skin, tall and lithe, piercing eyes. She also had a couple of confrontations with some other girls before she even made it into the house. I don’t remember all the details, names were called, weaves were compromised. When Tyra called the names of the 12 or 14 top girls, Angelea did not make the cut. When they revealed her exit interview, the sassy, confident girl had been humbled. In tears and sobs, Angelea moaned, “I cain’t go back to Buffalo, I cain’t!!” Over and over again she said it and I remember it first because of how funny it was, but mostly because I realized that this reality show had been Angelea’s potential ticket to a better life. She wasn’t a scholar or an athlete or an actress, she was a poor girl from Buffalo with few options and this was her big hope.

As luck, or something else, would have it, the producers invited Angelea back the next season and she did quite well. Less confrontational, she still managed to bring her essence to the competition and ended up placing fifth or sixth. She became such an audience favorite that she was invited back a few seasons later for Top Model All Stars, and she continued to bloom as a model. She didn’t win the competition, or maybe she did actually. On the cycle finale, we found out that Angelea had been disqualified for some unnamed reason and then they crowned another girl, Lisa D’Amato, Top Model All Stars. But Angelea fans all knew in our hearts that Angelea was the true winner and a google search will only affirm our beliefs. She was the girl from the 716 area code who smized her way into our hearts.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I think there is a little bit of Angelea Preston in all of us. And this summer, I have thought about Angelea a lot, specifically, that end of her first Top Model episode where she achingly, honestly, painfully wept, “I cain’t go back to Buffalo, I cain’t!!”

As you might remember, my job ended last June. The restaurant closed for a renovation with the intention of reopening in the fall with a new identity. I had been mulling over the possibility of a return all summer, in fact, I’d started making plans to start training in a few weeks. And then, this morning, I got a phone message, asking why I wasn’t at the new hire training. I was in the middle of cleaning my kitchen, a little miracle on its own, and had not heard the phone ring. I called the restaurant and told my manager that I hadn’t received any notice about a training today. She was understanding and told me to come to the training on Monday.

But as I went back to cleaning, ironically throwing away expired, unused cleaning supplies, I made a decision. I can’t go back to Buffalo. I had been weighing my options all summer, hoping for crystalline clarity, flip-flopping every day or so. But in that moment, sitting on my kitchen floor, surrounded by 25 cleaning supplies, 5 or 6 half full cartons of light bulbs and no less than 3 cans of WD-40, I realized I could not, should not and would not return to Barneys.

I had a great run there, 15 years, one-third of my life. Some of my best friends and funniest memories are Barney Greengrass related. I could make a list of why this is the right thing, I could also make a list of why I should go back. But sometimes we have to make a decision, even when there is a certain amount of vacillation, and go forward. We roll the dice and take our chance.

I keep thinking about Joan Rivers, I know I’m not the only one. One of the many things that moved me about her, which people have shared over and over in the last two weeks, was that she lived her life fearlessly. If I had a dollar for every time I made a decision based on fear, I could have been interviewed by Joan herself on her short-lived series, How’d You Get So Rich? (Not a bad show, actually; I watched episodes of that and Joan and Melissa: Joan Knows Best? all weekend and laughed and cried through every episode.) I realized today that fear was the biggest reason I planned to return, I feared that there was nothing else out there for a person my age, with my experience, my looks, my personality. And you know, maybe that will ultimately prove true. But I feel I must take this chance. Fearless. So, here goes. Wish me luck.